Author: Su Youbing
Translator: chiangyushien, FoxyJung
“Secretary Jin, you agree to it, right?” Most scholars were good people, but they could not help but heckle.
Secretary Jin’s complexion was ghastly pale. There were so many words running around in his mind to the point that he could not even refute it.
Tao Mo still waited eagerly for his answer.
Old Tao was then forced to say: “Young Master, even though you’re yearning for a capable person, this sentence is a bit inappropriate.”
That sentence was more than ‘a bit inappropriate’ — it was simply more like ‘very inappropriate.’ Secretary Jin only hated that he himself could not take a stand by Old Tao’s side and answer Tao Mo by pouring earnest advice into his ears.
Tao Mo asked gloomily: “Did I not use it well?”
“It’s actually not that bad.” In public, Old Tao did not point it out bluntly. He only said, “It’s just a little too much.”
Tao Mo said: “Should I say ‘Although the Ruo River is three thousand li long, one wishes to drink two ladles worth of water from it?’ Secretary Jin, are you willing to take the first ladle?”
Ladle? Or visit a prostitute? 
( 瓢 or ladle has the same pronunciation as 嫖 which means patronizing prostitutes. They’re both pronounced as ‘piáo.)
Secretary Jin’s complexion was no longer ghastly pale; rather, it became green.
The other scholars could not hold back their laughter.
“Fine.” Secretary Jin’s complexion had changed a few times. All of a sudden, he laughed and said, “Receiving appreciation in the eyes of the county’s lord, I feel extremely flattered. I’m basically not a pretentious person who strikes a pose to impress others. In that case, I’ll comply. Your Excellency, I’m willing to serve you faithfully.”
From the preceding county magistrate, to the former master, the change in Secretary Jin’s attitude had shown that he was really agreeing. However, Old Tao somehow felt a bit uneasy. He could see that Secretary Jin agreed because he wanted to fight for a bite, and not because he sincerely wanted to help Tao Mo. However, the matter had already ceased up to this point. Further interpretation was futile as well. He had no other choice but to take a step and look around before taking the next.
When Tao Mo witnessed Secretary Jin’s promise, he heaved a sigh of relief. He made a quick turn of his footsteps and headed for the pavilion.
Old Tao’s eyebrows creased inadvertently, and he blindly followed suit.
Unfortunately, when Tao Mo arrived, everybody in the center pavilion had already dispersed.
Tao Mo reluctantly asked a bystander: “Just a moment ago, the center pavilion was still filled with people sitting around, how come they disappeared?”
The bystander replied: “Gu She wanted to leave, so they naturally followed him.”
Tao Mo was upset. Normally, when there were so many people who left, he would absolutely know it without exception. It must be because there were many people a moment ago and everyone was roaring with laughter, so he did not notice it.
Old Tao caught sight of Tao Mo’s dejected look. He cleared his throat and said: “It’s a rare occasion for local scholars to get together. Young Master, that’s the reason why you should make more acquaintances. It’s also good to lay a good foundation in order for you to establish a solid base here.”
Tao Mo examined himself thoroughly. That’s right, the future’s long, why should I be in such a hurry?
With that in mind, he obediently went to the place where everyone gathered.
Others were also very curious about the new County Magistrate. Seeing him take the initiative to engage in small talk, everyone welcomed him well.
After a while, Old Tao noticed that Secretary Jin got up to take his leave. He immediately pulled Tao Mo up to send him off the whole way, even going to the point of reaching his palanquin’s door.
As for Tao Mo’s solicitous hospitality, Secretary Jin refused to give any comment. He only said that he would take up the secretary post after New Year.
When Old Tao saw this, he had no other choice.
After they returned to the county’s yamen, Tao Mo was hesitant to get off from his palanquin, “How about if we go and pay a visit to Mr. Yi Chui’s.”
“Gu She has his own residence, so even if we go and see Mr. Yi Chui, we won’t run into him,” said Old Tao.
Tao Mo let out an ‘ah’ and looked extremely disappointed.
Old Tao looked at him with a frown, “Young Master, please come with me.”
Tao Mo’s heart thumped, and he also felt a bad premonition.
Sure enough, when he entered the study room, Old Tao immediately dropped a sentence without hesitation, “Young Master, do you still remember what you promised in front of Old Master’s grave?”
Tao Mo’s complexion turned white. He faltered in speech until he became speechless.
“Homosexuality is against the traditions, you mustn’t obstinately persist in going about things the wrong way.” Old Tao’s words were strong and powerful and struck directly into Tao Mo’s heart, “The Old Master paid the price with his life, was it not enough?”
Tao Mo only felt the scenery flashed right before his eyes, and when he regained his consciousness, his legs had already slammed loudly on the ground.
Old Tao was shocked and quickly helped him up: “Young Master, if you’ve known this from the start, why were you so persistent?”
Tao Mo stood up on his wobbly legs and shook his head, “I also don’t know.” Just a moment ago, his shoulders, along with his legs, seemed like they could not bear a heavy load.
“Young Master.” Old Tao slightly raised his voice.
“I know.” Tao Mo interrupted him and hurriedly said, “I promised my father that I’ll become a good official. I must become a good official.” He said clearly and fluently, unknowingly whether it was for assuring Old Tao or reminding himself.
Old Tao saw that he looked pale and miserable. He could not bear to pressure him again. “Young Master, I’m doing this for your own sake. I think that Gu She isn’t an easy person to get along with. I’m afraid that if you will make friends with him, you’ll pay bitterly.”
The corners of Tao Mo’s mouth twitched as he whispered: “I also don’t know why every time I see him, my heart would throb violently.”
Old Tao recalled that Gu She, and he also had to admit that he was really one who had a strikingly elegant and graceful bearing. However, this one who had a strikingly elegant and graceful bearing was also a man. If he was a pure and gentle one, it may be possible to get him to become one of them. However, looking at his bearing, not to mention to get him to become one of them, even if Tao Mo was the one who would go and invite him, it may not necessarily be accepted by Gu She.
To think it this way, his feeling of compassion went to the utmost, yet he ruthlessly said: “I see that man treats other men severely in speech and countenance and is definitely not good for homosexuals. Young Master, it’s best for your thoughts to be left unknown than be found out by him. Young Master, I’m afraid that…you’ll be disliked for no reason.”
Tao Mo bowed his head and hunched his back. It was only after a moment before he could speak: “I know.” He did not want that man to look down on him, let alone be disgusted with himself. He just needed to control himself, how easy could this be?
Old Tao sighed and said: “New Year is fast approaching. I’ll tell Hao Guozi to do some Spring Festival shopping. This is our first time to celebrate New Year in Tan Yang County. No matter how, we should make it as warm and lively as we can.”
At this time, Tao Mo was ashamed and embarrassed, and was disheartened. He nodded indiscriminately and went back to his room to sleep.
He had not finished recuperating yet and he was feeling low in his heart. In the evening, he ran a fever again.
Hao Guozi recalled that Tao Mo had not yet finished taking the medicine that the physician prescribed, so he concocted a set of it and gave it to Tao Mo for him to drink.
After drinking the medicine, Tao Mo became dizzy and fell asleep. The next day, his fever had subsided, but he had no energy at all, so he just lied on his bed and did not want to get up.
Old Tao inwardly regretted saying too much yesterday.
After six days had passed, Tao Mo finally got out of bed and it was just in time for Lu Zhenxue’s visit.
After Hao Guozi and Old Tao wrapped Tao Mo tightly, he was allowed to see the guests.
When Lu Zhenxue saw him, he could not help but say, “Your Excellency, why have you become emaciated?”
Tao Mo waved his hands, “I’m just unaccustomed to the environment and climate in this new place.”
“I know a few local physicians with excellent medical skills, may I recommend them?”
“Thank you very much, you don’t need to.”
“Your Excellency, you’re the parental official of Tan Yang County. Your every act and move is related to the livelihood of Tan Yang County. Please take care of yourself as much as possible.” He said earnestly, as if he had completely forgot the last time he had stormed off in a huff.
Tao Mo listlessly nodded.
“Your Excellency, I actually came here to invite you to participate in the plum blossom banquet tomorrow night.” Lu Zhenxue took out an invitation from his cuff and respectfully handed it over.
Tao Mo was puzzled: “Plum blossom banquet?”
Lu Zhenxue replied: “There are three precious things in Tan Yang, one of them is the blooming of the plum blossoms. Your Excellency, this is your first time to come to Tan Yang, you must see and admire it.”
Tao Mo really did not want to go.
Lu Zhenxue was aware of his thoughts and he hastily said: “Your Excellency, isn’t it that last time, you wanted to meet Mr. Yi Chui’s brilliant disciple?”
In Tao Mo’s heart, he could hardly believe it so he asked: “Will they also attend?”
Lu Zhenxue smiled and did not answer.
Tao Mo remembered what Old Tao said before, so he resolutely shook his head and said, “Then I won’t go.”
Lu Zhenxue was surprised: “Why?”
Tao Mo replied, “I’m not ready to see him for the time being.”
Lu Zhenxue apparently misunderstood his intention and wondered in his heart: Did I underestimate him? Does he want to meet Mr. Yi Chui’s brilliant disciple in order to establish his power, instead of drawing him over to his side by fawning on him as what I originally thought? But why does he want to focus on Mr. Yi Chui and let go of my Teacher? Isn’t it that Teacher Lin Zhengyong’s reputation and influence in Tan Yang is not inferior to Mr. Yi Chui’s? Could it be that he wants to destroy them one by one?
When he pondered over it, he felt that behind Tao Mo’s indolence, there was a deep and unmeasurable scheme. Even in the way he held his tea, there was something a bit puzzling.
“Your Excellency, but I’ve already spread the news that you’ll attend.” Lu Zhenxue pretended to make things difficult. “Your Excellency, I thought you’ve decided to do it for my sake. I didn’t expect that I was showering affection on an uninterested party.”
When he said it like that, Tao Mo felt that he was being too unreasonable, so he said, “Then, I’ll go and sit down for a moment.” Even if he could not get close, it was still good to be able to see that person.
Lu Zhenxue was overjoyed in his heart but he maintained his composure on the surface and said comprehensively: “If so, Your Excellency, I’ll be waiting for you to come to my humble home. I’ll be honored by your presence.”